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February 5, 2017

After two weeks in office, President Trump is still settling into the White House and his new life as a public employee, and he is trying to bring more order to his relatively freewheeling West Wing operation, The New York Times reported Sunday, based on "interviews with dozens of government officials, congressional aides, former staff members, and other observers of the new administration." A man of routine, Trump typically retires to the residence at 6:30 p.m. to watch TV in his bathrobe or use his phone, the Times says, while his "aides confer in the dark because they cannot figure out how to operate the light switches in the Cabinet room."

After the chaotic rollout of his executive orders, especially the one restricting immigration and banning all refugees — put on hold by a federal judge over the weekend — Trump had demanded that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus "begin to put in effect a much more conventional White House protocol that had been taken for granted in previous administrations," Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman report, including looping the president in on executive orders earlier in the process and instituting "a new set of checks on the previously unfettered power enjoyed by [chief political strategist Stephen] Bannon and the White House policy director, Stephen Miller." They continue:

But for the moment, Mr. Bannon remains the president's dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump's anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council, a greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban. It is partly because he is seen as having a clear vision on policy. But it is also because others who had been expected to fill major roles have been less confident in asserting their power. [The New York Times]

That last part was a reference to the gap expected to be filled by Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and a senior adviser, who is, the Times notes, "a father of young children who has taken to life in Washington, and, along with his wife, Ivanka Trump, has already been spotted at events around town." Bannon, for now, has filled that vacuum. For more details about Trump's first two weeks, including his keen interest in the Oval Office drapery, head over to The New York Times. Peter Weber

6:16 a.m. ET

There were a lot of stories wrapped into the ice dancing finals on Tuesday at the Winter Olympics in South Korea: French couple Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron scored a record-high 123.35 in their free dance, winning the silver medal despite Papadakis' live wardrobe malfunction during Monday's short program; American siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani took the bronze, beating U.S. national champs Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue while the third U.S. pair, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, dropped to ninth place after a fall in Tuesday's long program; and Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir had a stunning performance to hang on for the gold, adding their second gold medal this year and third ever (they also won two silvers in the 2014 Sochi Games).

Virtue and Moir's ice dance elicited microphone-distorting shrieks from Olympics super-fan and NBC Olympics analyst Leslie Jones. She was joined by on-again, off-again NBC commentator Adam Rippon, who won a bronze in team figure skating earlier this Olympics, and Scott Hamilton, and they all seemed to be having a fine time with their color commentary.

"Every outfit she's put on, I want to wear to the club," Jones said of Virtue. "Steamy," said Rippon, and Jones concurred: "Are they getting in trouble for how sexy they are?" And to answer Jones' question, which is apparently a pretty common one, no, Virtue and Moir don't appear to be dating. Peter Weber

4:52 a.m. ET

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has mostly steered clear of the news media, but he sat down for a wide-ranging interview with CBS News foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan, which aired on 60 Minutes Sunday night. Tillerson spoke about the challenges dealing with North Korea, declined again to "dignify the question" of whether he called President Trump a "moron," and insisted that "there's been no dismantling at all of the State Department," despite 41 empty ambassadorships and numerous vacancies at the top of the department. He also talked about his relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin, forged when he was a top executive at ExxonMobil.

"You've said you had a very close relationship with Vladimir Putin," Brennan said. "You've done huge deals with him. Photos of you toasting him with champagne. And all that closeness raised eyebrows. It even inspired a Saturday Night Live skit. Did you ever see that skit?" Tillerson said yes, "my kids pointed me to it," and "I laughed out loud."

The SNL skit, with John Goodman playing Tillerson, made light of "this concern that you have a friendship with Vladimir Putin, and that because of that, you and the president aren't going to hold him to account," Brennan pointed out. "The relationship that I had with President Putin spans 18 years now. It was always about 'What could I do to be successful on behalf of my shareholders, how Russia could succeed,'" he responded. When he walked in to meet Putin as secretary of state, Tillerson said, "the only thing I said to him was 'Mr. President, same man, different hat.'"

"I said to him, 'I now represent the American people,'" Tillerson said of his Putin meeting, when asked to elaborate. "And I think it was important that that be said right up front. And he clearly got, I mean, he clearly understood that as well." You can read and watch the entire interview at 60 Minutes. Peter Weber

3:21 a.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Scott Beigel, one of the three teachers and coaches shot dead in last week's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, was buried Sunday. During his funeral at Temple Beth El in Boca Raton, his fiancée, Gwen Gossler, recounted a story about when she and Beigel were watching TV coverage of a previous school shooting. "Promise me if this ever happens to me, you will tell them the truth — tell them what a jerk I am, don't talk about the hero stuff," she recalled Beigel telling her, according to the New York Post. "Okay, Scott, I did what you asked," she added. "Now I can tell the truth. You are an amazingly special person. You are my first love and my soulmate."

Beigel, 35, was a geography teacher and cross country coach, and he was shot by the gunman while trying to protect students by locking them in his classroom. "He unlocked the door and let us in," student Kelsey Friend told ABC News. "I had thought he was behind me, but he wasn't. When he opened the door, he had to relock it so we could stay safe, but he didn't get the chance to. ... If the shooter had come in the room, I probably wouldn't be [alive]." Beigel "was my hero and he will forever be my hero," Friend told CNN. Sixteen other people were killed and 15 wounded in the mass shooting.

Beigel wasn't alone in contemplating being a human shield. "Across the country, teachers are grappling with how their roles have expanded, from educator and counselor to bodyguard and protector," The New York Times reports. "Last night I told my wife I would take a bullet for the kids," Robert Parish, a teacher at an elementary school just miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, told a union hall crowded with Broward County teachers on Saturday. Since the shooting, "I think about it all the time." Peter Weber

2:33 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

When Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged Paul Manafort with financial crimes and conspiracy against the U.S. last fall, the indictment said that President Trump's former campaign chairman laundered $18 million and used the untaxed income to support his lavish lifestyle. But actually, "federal law enforcement officials have identified more than $40 million in 'suspicious' financial transactions to and from companies controlled by" Manafort, most of them flagged during an unsuccessful anti-kleptocracy effort in 2014 and 2015, BuzzFeed News reports.

The previous legwork by the FBI and Treasury Department's financial crimes unit "explains how the special counsel was able to swiftly bring charges against Manafort for complex financial crimes dating as far back as 2008," BuzzFeed says, "and it shows that Mueller could still wield immense leverage as he seeks to compel Manafort to cooperate in the ongoing investigation," as erstwhile partner Rick Gates appears to be doing. The FBI interviewed Manafort in 2014, but Justice Department leaders reportedly decided Manafort's apparent financial fraud was small potatoes compared with that of his longtime client Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. "We had him in 2014," one former officials said of Manafort. "In hindsight, we could have nailed him then."

From 2004 and 2014, eight banks filed 23 "suspicious activity reports" on accounts controlled by Manafort, and among those not included in Mueller's indictment are $5 million to and from Puerto Rican firm Maho Films Investment Co., where Manafort was one of two directors, and several smaller transactions that fraud investigators suspected might be pitched to avoid automatic fraud alerts, including two back-to-back $7,500 ATM withdrawals and an odd spending spree at a drug store: Officials at Wachovia "flagged $25,000 in 'fraudulent charges' at Duane Reade stores in New York City in September 2007," BuzzFeed reports. "Bank officials said the debit card was in Manafort's possession during that time." Read more about Manafort's financial history at BuzzFeed News. Peter Weber

1:33 a.m. ET
AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt

Al Hoffman Jr., a real estate developer and major Republican donor, is closing his wallet to any candidate or group that won't agree to renew the ban on assault weapons.

Hoffman, a Palm Beach resident and former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, told MSNBC on Monday that following the shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school last week that left 17 people dead, he was trying to figure out a way he could enact change. A friend told him, "Why don't you start withholding checks until you find somebody who will support the advocacy for a gun legislation?" Hoffman said he thought that this was a great idea, and he decided to try to get other Republican donors on board. He's since sent "thousands" of letters out explaining his position and why he wants others to join his boycott. "No money, no guns," he said. "We got to do this."

Bill Clinton signed the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994, but it expired 10 years later under George W. Bush, and it has not been renewed. The ban prohibited the sale of semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15, which is used in many mass shootings. Hoffman said he knows that with many Republican lawmakers refusing to vote for new restrictions on guns this is going to be a tough road, but he's found at least one donor to join him in his boycott, The New York Times reports. Catherine Garcia

1:05 a.m. ET

"The president spent the weekend defending himself, misrepresenting the truth, and attacking others from his phone in Florida," Fox News anchor Shepard Smith said Monday afternoon, kicking off his look at President Trump's weekend of tweeting. Trump fired off angry, frequency inaccurate tweets against the FBI, the Justice Department, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calf.), and Oprah Winfrey, among other targets, Smith noted, but tellingly, "he did not attack Vladimir Putin or Russia, nor did he express concern that the Russians attacked the United States, nor did he pledge in any way to put measures in place to stop future attacks."

Smith read some tweets and did some fact-checking, noting, for example, that while Trump insisted he "never said Russia did not meddle in the election," in fact "the reality is the president has questioned the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election over and over and over again." Trump conflated Russian election meddling, now conclusively proved, with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's collusion investigation, Smith added. "The collusion investigation, according to our reporting, is ongoing," and "the extent to which Russian meddling did or did not affect the results of the election is an open question."

Smith seemed most perplexed by Trump's unwillingness to criticize Russia or Putin. "The president's spokespersons have been on television denouncing the meddling, the president has not," he said. "Not once, not on camera, not on Twitter, not anywhere." Watch below. Peter Weber

12:39 a.m. ET
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More than two years after Wanda Roberts and her family threw a message in a bottle into the Pacific Ocean, it was found by Edward Paulino, thousands of miles away in Guam.

Roberts' late father, Bob Mahan, loved to camp out by the ocean, and on Sept. 9, 2015, the family gathered on the beach in Navarro, California, sending a message in a bottle out to sea. It ultimately reached the shores of Malojloj, where it was discovered on Feb. 3 by Paulino. Paulino's daughter, Gerika, told the Pacific Daily News her dad likes "collecting interesting items on the beach," and when he found the bottle he urged her to contact Roberts. "It's amazing that the bottle traveled such a long distance," she said.

The faded pink bottle contained a letter from Roberts, explaining why she had thrown it into the ocean, and a small container of bubbles sporting a picture of Mahan's favorite cartoon character, Mickey Mouse. Gerika Paulino messaged Roberts, who lives in Washington, on Facebook to let her know the bottle had arrived in Guam, and Roberts was thrilled. "Social media is a wonderful outlet connecting us to another part of the world," she said. "This brought back fond memories, and all of the family agrees that my dad would have loved to know we did this." Catherine Garcia

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